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The Range of Regulations Applicable to Health and Safety in Construction

On 4th December 2000, Mr. Vincent Dooley while working for McDermott Bros Contactors Ltd (MBCL) at 280 Bishopsgate slipped through a hole that he working on on the fourteenth floor and fell four meters on the thirteenth floor and sustained serious injuries. He died later that day from the serious injuries sustained in the head. Four years later, in 2005, MBCL was fined 150,000 pounds by the Southwark Crown Court for having breached section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974. According to Health and Safety Executive who had filed the case in court, HBCL had failed to provide Mr. Dooley with measures to keep him safe from sustaining injuries in terms of accidents. They had therefore exposed Dooley to a risk. This is just but one of the instances, where a constructor had, sustains injuries at his workplace. It is from such happenings that the Government of England was forced to put in place measures to protect the safety of workers during work. These regulations provided security for workers and thus ensured sanity in the construction companies. It is obligatory to abide by the rules whereas any breach of them may lead to strict measures by the court of law (Health and Safety 2008).

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The laws are constructed to cover all aspects of work. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 is one of the regulations that all construction companies have to follow. Since 1974 when the rule was put in place, it has brought about the measure to ensure that employees, employers, and contractors are protected from the possible risks that could befall them. It is meant to reinforce, encourage and regulate the welfare of workers in the United Kingdom. This law contains specified duties for each of the parties involved in construction work. It specifically outlines duties for persons having authority in a construction site including employers, and the duties for the employees. This Act has the main objectives of enforcing the health and safety welfare of people at a construction site. In addition, it covers people with any form of connection with those working and eventually it contains regulations for workers under dangerous circumstances including those working with explosives and highly inflammable substances. Under this Act, the employers are supposed to facilitate a working environment that will not expose their workers to any form of physical or risk or any risk to their health. This includes all aspects of work starting from handling, use storage, or transportation of these materials. In addition to this, employers should provide information and basic training to their employees. He should also ensure that there is adequate supervision. The work facilities should be in such a condition that the health and safety of the employees are observed. Sections 2(4), (6), and (7) give the employer the obligation to work in conjunction with representatives from civil societies by asking for adequate information on safety issues (ECCE 2005).

The designers, manufacturers, and suppliers of materials to the construction sites are put under obligation to ensure that their materials do not pose any risk to the safety of the workers. This has to be done through testing and examination of the materials. The suppliers should ensure that all machines are accompanied by their manuals of work. Other materials should also be accompanied by the user guides (ECCE 2005).

The main duty of the employee is to ensure that he does not expose himself or other people who could be around him to risks. He has to be extremely careful in handling anything during construction. In addition, he is supposed to work in conjunction with the employer and other people concerned to ensure that his safety is observed at all times and also to ensure that his employer is observing the requirement of the Acts. The employee, in section 8 is put under the obligation to avoid any form of intentional interference of materials provided to assist in the wellbeing of their safety so as to gain compensation from the employee ( 2008).

Despite its good formation, the Act has several exceptions for each clause. In the case of a supply of materials, the rule only covers people within the UK. Anything outside this region, even if imported from the United Kingdom will not be under this law. Also, in case the supply was done by means of credit service or hire purchase, the will not be bound by section 6(9). In addition to this, there was a misunderstanding of the definition of the word reasonably practicable. According to the critiques, the word was broader than the requirements of the commission. European Court of Justice later found the description to be without defect (OPSI 2008).

Another law in the UK that regulates the work environment for the construction industry is the Construction (Design and Management) regulations 2007. This law which is a modification and an improvement of the Construction (Design and Management) 1994 is also meant to outline measures to regulate the safe working conditions for construction sites. Part 2 of the CDM regulates the management and monitoring of the welfare of workers. It obligates anybody working under another person to report any instance that can put the health and life of a worker at risk. Section 3 dictates that any client whose work is likely to take more than 30 days to ensure that he has a CDM co-coordinator and a principal supervisor. Section 4 outlines the coordination functions of all duty holders. It obligates them to work in consultation and coordination with others on-site or in the neighboring sites so as to ensure the smooth running of affairs for both. To make a difference with the CDM 1994, the 2007 version changes most of the duties performed by the planning supervisor resting them to the CDM coordinator and principal supervisor. Section 5 solely dwells on the way activities on the construction site should be carried out to ensure maximum safety precautions. It outlines the duties of contractors in order to facilitate this and finally, Section 6 dwells on all aspects of civil liabilities ( 2008).

To make a strategy is just one of the stages of success. Implementation could be another stage which in most cases is the most important of all the stages. Therefore, the formation of rules and laws in the UK to ensure the safety of its workers is not enough. The most important part was to ensure that construction firms and other employers concerned with construction were abiding by the specified rules. To achieve this, the UK formed commissions that were held responsible for following up on the construction projects to ensure that they follow the specified rules. One of these organizations is the health and safety commission (ECCE 2005).

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Created by the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the duties of the commission were several. It had the responsibility of supporting and encouraging any entity engaged in the support of the Act. In addition, the commission had to research and ensure the dissemination of information to relevant people concerned with the work in question. The commission also offered advisory services to the government, employers, employees, and other organizations concerning the Act. In addition, they received advice from relevant sources so as to know the situation at hand. Finally, it was the function of the commission to propose regulations and to be answerable to the secretary of State by informing him of any matters of relevance ( 2008).

Another organization depicting the effort of the UK government in trying to minimize the rate of accidents at worksites is the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL). This institution plays a scientific role in the collective effort in ensuring safety at work sites. Apart from researching and identifying methods of increasing the safety standards of workers, the Laboratory provides advisory and consultancy services to the government and other concerned parties. The laboratory also monitors all the likely environmental risks and the biological risks attached to a given project. Finally, the laboratory plays the role of validating and giving certificates to the relevant institutions which attain the specified standards and requirements ( 2008).

Most of these laws in the UK were made in compliance with the European Union requirements. With statistics of accidents related to construction sites going up, the European Union was forced to form a commission to oversee the safety of workers in this industry. This commission organized a great campaign for occupational Health and Safety. This campaign which was organized by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work-based in Bilbao brought together several a number of construction bodies who eventually signed the Bilbao declaration (Health and Safety Coordination 2008).

This declaration touched on various issues of the construction industry starting with procurement. They emphasized the use of well-qualified professionals which in return was likely to give a client double benefit of durable work and reduce the rate of accidents. A campaign carried out by the Senior Labour Inspectors Committee had shown that most projects in the European Union did not comply with the regulations stipulated. This led to the Bilbao declaration calling upon all the member States to improve on the measures to ensure that all projects carried out in their respective countries complied with the specified regulations. This could be done through the development of guidelines. This could be facilitated in cooperation with other social partners to ensure that adequate information and guidance is provided specifically in connection with the needs of the given community. In addition, the European Council of Architects and the European Federation of Engineering Associations were given the obligation to design new the existing measures and also invent other new technological measures to ensure that the safety and health of workers are elevated to the highest possible point. These were the measures taken by the European Union to ensure the safety of construction workers (Health and Safety Coordination 2008).

Despite all the measures by the UK government and the European Union at large, the rate of accidents in the construction industry still tops the list in relation to other industries. The construction industry amounted to 141 accidents per year in relation to the average of 100 accidents average of the European Union. A total average of 1,300 deaths occurs each year from the construction industry. These accidents are a great loss both monetarily and emotionally. Financially, the accidents cost the industry an average of 75 billion Euros each year. This is a big chunk when related to the total output of the industry standing at 902 billion Euros each year.

Does the regulation of the construction industry bring any effect to the general performance of the stakeholders? The answer to this question could come in varying dimensions. There are those who believe that regulating the industry make give it a boost while others believe that this may lead to poor performance by the industry. During the Bilbao campaign, for example, the issue of regulation or deregulation of the industry received mixed reactions. Henk van Hoof, the Secretary of State for Employment and Social Affairs of Netherlands aired his opinion against the regulation of the industry. He said that implementation of the rules was a costly affair that costs his country an estimated 1.2 billion each year. He reiterated that the best way to improve on the safety measures was through daily practice and not regulations (ECCE 2005).

Contrary to Van Hoof’s observation in the Netherlands, a different study of the Oresund Link project between Sweden and Denmark showed that good working conditions encouraged through the regulation of the industry resulted in fewer accidents. In one of the companies, workers were given permanent jobs and they worked under good conditions while in the other company, the workers were given short-term unsecured employment. As expected, there were reported more accidents in the company with short-term non- secured employees (ECCE 2005).

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To differ with Van Hoof’s sentiments, it is a little bit official to say that the budget implementing the regulatory measures which he put at 1.2 billion does not really measure up with the total loss in terms of lack of regulations which resulted in a total loss of 75 billion Euros in the European Union. Lack of regulations can cause losses that not only come in financial form but also human deaths (ECCE 2005).

In conclusion, the regulatory systems have done more good than bad in the general growth of safety conditions for workers in the European Union. The regulatory measures should thus be stepped up for the betterment of the future of the construction industry.


Health and Safety Policy Document. Updated 2008. Web.

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (2008). Health and Safety Coordination in the Construction Industry. Web.

European Council of Civil Engineers (2005). Construction Health and Safety on the European Agenda. 2009. Web.

Office of Public Sector Information (2008). Legislation. Web.

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